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A nation of retail ranters?

Whether it’s about bad weather or a delayed train, Brits have a bit of a reputation for complaining about the small things in life. This isn’t just an outdated stereotype. In fact, data shows that complaints about poor customer service are at an all-time high in the UK. 

In a world where the majority of retail transactions take place online, this sharp rise in poor customer experience should be a top concern for any online retailer. The solution? It starts with understanding everything there is to know about your customer. 

With that in mind, we wanted to understand what really happens inside our brains when we shop online. So we joined forces with Goldsmiths University’s Psychology Department to carry out an experiment in their lab. The research compared the impact of typical retail experiences with the brain activity resulting from everyday situations to understand just how fired up we get when faced with online shopping annoyances. 

Here’s what we found.

Online shopping’s biggest turn-offs

Using an EEG (electroencephalogram) and ECG (electrocardiogram) the scientists compared online shopping experiences, like your delivery arriving late, with having your bike being stolen or getting stuck in traffic. The results showed that online shopping frustrations evoke very similar brain activity to these everyday bugbears. 

Although shopping online and getting stuck in traffic appear not to have much in common, they’re actually affecting the brain in a similar way.

Delving deeper, the data shows that the most frustrating retail experiences were: 

  1. Having a wedding outfit delivered after the day after the big day
  2. Spending an hour queuing online for a hot ticket to an event only to have the website crash when you reach the front of the queue. 
  3. Having a hotly anticipated delivery returned to the depot due to the address not being found 

When compared to issues like poor communication, glitchy checkout experiences or your payment being declined, delivery and address verification failures were most irritating to consumers.

Perhaps most fascinating was that the evidence shows that people were likely to come away feeling hot under the collar and would resist situations like these in the future. If these situations are leaving consumers unlikely to shop again, these results should worry retailers. 

Why this matter for retailers

At its core, ecommerce exists to make the lives of consumers easier. It’s a mantra that ecommerce managers live by. This research shows that getting it wrong is risky at best, and at worst a highway to lost sales and customer trust.  

85,000 British businesses moved online during the pandemic, so there has simply never been more choice when it comes to ecommerce. Consumers ultimately decide where they spend their money. Which means there has never been more of an incentive to make sure your business is one that gets it right the first time. 

Interested in finding out more? Check out the results of our study in full on our interactive report which explains the findings in greater detail or read more in our upcoming blogs to delve deeper into the science of frustration and how retailers can turn frustration into joy.


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